Canada: Academic article explores problematic police and media practices relating to allegations of HIV non-disclosure, proposes solutions

Kyle Kirkup explores Canadian police and media practices that stigmatize people living with HIV (PLWH) and facilitate the public’s belief that HIV and PLWH are dangerous. In support, Kirkup analyzes the 2010 case of an Ottawa man living with HIV arrested for sexual assault, which involved the public release of the man’s identity, photo, sexual health, and sexual encounters in an article headlined “Have you had sex with this man?”

The ensuing discourse of gay male sexuality using tropes from the HIV epidemic in the 80s illustrates, Kirkup argues, how a lack of police and media regulation and education continue to produce a punitive and isolating environment for PLWH.

Kirkup proposes several strategies for reform, including expanding publication bans and non-disclosure legislation, changing police ethics to keep private information out of the hands of journalists, educating journalists and public officials about the medial realities of HIV transmission risk and medical prognosis, and abandoning the “aggravated sexual assault” charge based on HIV status.